While many of us have been muttering about the long term effects of Brexit and whether the UK is about to turn its back on renewable energy and go full-blown nuclear, a Swedish firm might be about to bring brand new kite energy to the coast of Wales. At the tip of Anglesey lies the port of Holyhead and Minesto have just put in their application for a licence that would see the installation of a tidal energy system, the first of its kind in the world.
At the cost of £25 million and part funded by the EU, the project will place underwater energy kites off the coast that together would produce 10 MW when fully operational, enough to power some 8,000 homes. Testing of the system has already taken place successfully off the coast of Ireland but Holyhead has been chosen for the development of the first full scale plant. The initial installation at Holyhead Deep, in 100 metres of water will initially produce 0.5 MW before kites are added that push the production up to 10 MW.
Initial tests at Strangford Lough on the coast of Ireland enabled Minesto to implement a scaled down site using a system of simulation tools and subsystem testing. These have gone well and, assuming the licence is granted, the main project will be undertaken off the coast of Holyhead sometime next year.
How the Kites Work
The deep water kites work much the same way as the ones we see flying in the air in parks and on beaches. Currents in the water around Holyhead will move the kites, allowing them to create energy which is then relayed to the mainland where it can be fed into the National Grid. The start of the installation is planned for 2017 and Holyhead has been chosen because it provides the low flow tidal velocities that the help the systems operate at an optimum.
The company has forged strong links since it started investing in their new technology with nearby Bangor University and the future installation should provide jobs in the area. The Holyhead Deep site was also chosen from a long list because it is situated far away from normal shipping lanes and wasn’t in the way of recreational sea users off the coast. Success for the plant could see more installations around the UK coast as we finally get to grips with the power and potential of the tides.